Tiger Woods (pictured) is the favorite to win the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play. However, the former world number one will have to beat the strongest field of any tournament played this season to date as 62 of the top 64 players in the world rankings are competing this week at the Dove Mountain Course in Arizona.
Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker are the only eligible players who are not playing in an event in which the winner has to win six matches over five days. The tournament has seen plenty of surprise results, probably due to the fact that all matches but the final are played over just 18 holes.
Players are seeded based on world rankings which means that in the first round the number one seed plays the number 64 seed. One round is played on each of the first three days, the semi-finals and quarter finals are played on Saturday, then the final and 3rd/4th place match are held on Sunday.
Matches tend to go to form in the first round but in every year a significant number of underdogs progress to the second round. As the tournament progresses a greater proportion of the less fancied players eliminate their opponents. Woods has won the event three times and is the only multiple winner alongside Geoff Ogilvy since the tournament was added to the schedules 1999.
The Dove Mountain Course is long even by modern standards at 7791 yards. The wide fairways lead to large undulating greens. There are several long carries over waste areas and the key to success is driving distance more than accuracy. Hitting the greens in the correct number of shots and then putting well are the other key skills.
Ian Poulter and Luke Donald are former champions at the Arizona complex which suggests the course is not a bomber’s paradise but the longer hitters do have an advantage. The format of the event means it is about playing consistently from tee to green, having a hot week with the putter and making progress even after a relatively poor round.
The Accenture Match Play has been staged 14 times and has produced eight winners from the United States. Europeans have accounted for six of the champions and Ogilvy has won the event twice for Australia. The event has always been played on a desert course so potential winners must be able to handle the prevailing breezy conditions.